HL Deb 13 October 1943 vol 129 cc169-72

My Lords, since we last met, your Lordships' House has suffered a severe and unexpected loss in the death of the Earl of Plymouth. At one time Lord Plymouth played a considerable part in this House, first as Chief Whip and later as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. But of late we had seen little of him. He had suffered a long illness, largely brought on by devoted work in the service of the State. But recently more favourable news had come in about his health. He was going about his duties as Lord Lieutenant, and many of us had hoped that we should soon be welcoming him back in his place in this House. And then came, quite suddenly, the shocking news of his death.

My Lords, your Lordships' House has suffered a severe blow. Lord Plymouth was a modest and unassuming man. But he had qualities which are all too rare in public life—wisdom, patience, human sympathy and an essential goodness, which impressed itself on all with whom he came into contact. Anyone who worked with him, as I did over many difficult months at the Foreign Office in the years before the war, will know how great is the debt which this country owes to him. As Chairman of the Non-intervention Committee, he had a most unenviable task. He had to control a situation which was always changing and frequently acute. He did this with supreme skill, and even more by an integrity of character which inspired the respect and won the support of colleagues, some of whom agreed on little else. I believe that his outstanding services in this and many other fields have never been fully recognized, and I am glad of the opportunity of paying this most whole-hearted tribute to him. The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, who has been unavoidably prevented from being in the House this afternoon, has asked me to associate him with what I have said, and to tell your Lordships how greatly, as Foreign Secretary, he came to value Lord Plymouth's never-failing understanding and help in times of difficulty. Your Lordships will, I am sure, wish me to express the deep sympathy of this House with his widow and family in their overwhelming sorrow.


My Lords, I am sure all of us on this side of the House would wish to re-echo the words just used by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, with regard to Lord Plymouth. It was indeed a shock when the news of his death came. I was particularly sensible of it as he had just begun fresh arduous duties as the elected representative of the National Savings Movement for the whole of South Wales. I stayed with him at his home three days before he died. I say that in order to be allowed to point out how Lord Plymouth had endeared himself to men of all Parties although he himself took a strong Party line. When he appeared at the National Savings meeting, although the majority of the delegates were of the opposite political camp, he was received with a whole-hearted applause and welcome, that I am sure would have touched anyone who realized that he had taken on this arduous business somewhat late in life and after a severe illness. This does show that it is possible to combine strong political views with the most complete harmony with one's fellow creatures even of opposite Parties.

I have been asked to say that in this respect he had a strong measure of agreement with the late Lord Meston who, although not a Minister in this House, did hold high Ministerial appointments in India and in that capacity, I suppose, may well be mentioned. Tribute was paid to him by my noble friend the Marquess Crewe in The Times. My noble friend Lord Perth, who served with him in the League of Nations, desires me to say that, although he was appointed to the Supervisory Committee to try to reduce the finances of that body, far from antagonizing people, Lord Meston was one to whom they all went sure of receiving good advice and kindly help.

I think it is proper also that reference should be made to one who has passed away on active service. I mean the Duke of Wellington, and I may be permitted to express appreciation of his services chiefly because he was a Hampshire man. It was a fine thing that the Duke of Wellington should abandon not only his home and his great possessions but also, since the war began, his own regiment, to which he had become devoted, in order to take on what he well knew to be a most hazardous enterprise. I would only say, with, I am sure, the approval of all of your Lordships, that the Duke of Wellington, by this action and by the manner of his death, added fresh lustre to the name of his great ancestor.

With deep respect to the memory of these three men I beg to associate all of us on this side of the House with what has been said by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Addison regrets that he has been detained elsewhere, and so cannot be here to speak for our Party. In his absence I most respectfully associate my noble friends and myself with the expressions of sympathy that have fallen from the lips of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, with regard to the Earl of Plymouth. As the noble Viscount has reminded your Lordships, Lord Plymouth was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in your Lordships' House at a most difficult period of our foreign relationships. I suppose that the task which fell to his lot as Chairman of the Non-intervention Committee was about as intricate and as delicate as could possibly be imagined in connexion with political work. As one who was in this House during the whole of that period, and who had many bouts with the noble Earl, I would like particularly to reinforce what the noble Viscount has said about his essential fairness, his justice, his great Parliamentary powers, and his evenness of temper under sometimes very trying circumstances. May I also associate my noble friends and myself with the remarks which have fallen from the lips of my noble friend Lord Mottistone about the late Lord Meston, whom many of us knew so well, and with what the noble Lord said concerning the late Duke of Wellington?


My Lords, it had been my intention to make reference to the death of the Duke of Welling- ton who, as your Lordships know, has been killed in action. My noble friend Lord Mottistone has already paid a tribute to his memory, and I would like, on behalf of the Government, to associate them with what he has said. Your Lordships will well remember the maiden speech which the late Duke delivered not so long ago on the subject of the Army with which he was familiar and with which members of his family have always been familiar. I am sure that your Lordships will desire me to take this opportunity of expressing the sympathy of your Lordships with his family. I also desire to associate the other members of the Government and myself with what has been said by Lord Mottistone concerning the great work done by Lord Meston in his long life. Your Lordships already know much of that work. I in particular have had special knowledge of it, in connexion with his activities at Geneva. He was a great man and his death will be a heavy loss to his country.

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